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Acupuncture for Tooth Pain

By Leigha Butler ; Updated August 14, 2017

Acupuncture has been a trusted method of healing and pain relief since it originated in China 8000 years ago. Ancient Chinese healers, observing the nature of energy, determined that health and illness were brought on by free and obstructed energy pathways, respectively. Early acupuncturists used stone knives or fish bones to open channels at points along energy meridians. Today, hair-thin metal needles are used in much the same way. Acupuncture is often used to treat a toothache, and some evidence suggests that it may be effective for post-operative tooth pain.

Acupuncture and Toothache

According to traditional Chinese medicine, tooth pain results when the body is harboring excess heat or when the flow of energy is inhibited along the meridians that lead to the mouth. Professional acupuncturists from Advanced Acupuncture, of Santa Monica, California, say that when it comes to relieving dental pain, "Treatment is directed toward soothing the circulation and detoxifying the meridians near the affected area." When energy is obstructed, acupuncture is designed to open the channels that lead to the upper or lower jaw.

Toothache Point 1

An acupuncture point known as "ear gate," or TH 21, is situated where the ear meets the upper jaw bone. Acupuncturists use this point to alleviate upper-jaw toothache. It is part of the "triple heater" meridian, which regulates function of the navel, chest and head. This meridian is associated with yang energy, or heat. Ear gate is used in conjunction with two other points, ST 6 and ST 7, to relieve pain associated with toothache.

Toothache Point 2

The ST 6 point, also known as "jawbone," is situated along the stomach meridian and is associated with relief of mouth and jaw trouble, including toothache. It is in front of the mandible hinge, on the fatty part of the masseter muscle. The stomach meridian connects 45 points from head to toe. Because it regulates acid and enzymes, it is used to treat problems of the gums and teeth.

Toothache Point 3

Point ST 7, also called "below the joint," is an acupuncture point along the stomach meridian that is used to treat tooth pain of the lower jaw. It is in front of the ear, in the soft spot where the side of your cheekbone meets your jaw. In an acupuncture treatment, a sterilized needle is inserted into this cavity. Problems in and around the mouth are thought to be connected to poor stomach function.

Ongoing Research

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, research on acupuncture's effectiveness for the treatment of dental pain is inconclusive. One 1999 study found that acupuncture was more effective than a placebo in preventing post-operative pain. A 2005 study, however, found no significant difference in dental pain mitigation between those who received acupuncture and those who merely thought they had received it, leading the study's authors to conclude that acupuncture's effectiveness may have to do with the power of suggestion.

Acupuncture as Complement

Although individual testimonials suggest that acupuncture is successful in relieving pain, and some evidence suggests it can be used successfully to treat post-operative dental pain, acupuncturists recognize that their modality is not always designed to treat the source of the ailment, but rather the symptoms. If you are experiencing tooth pain, consult a dental professional to find out whether you need treatment. Ask your doctor if acupuncture might work to alleviate some of the pain associated with your dental problem.

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